When I lost Emilia

Me and Emilia in the early 90’s.

Me and Emilia in the early 90’s.

When my grandmother (the woman who raised me) died, I was 12 years old. At the time she was hospitalized, she was living with me and my mom. We had to take her to a specialist in another city.

For about two months, I would go to class and come home to an empty house. There was no homemade lunch or warm hugs. I’d get to go to the hospital some days of the week, and every weekend. It was about an hour and half away.

At the beginning, I could sit by her bedside until the visits started to get restricted. I saw her in that bed, slowly fading but I couldn’t accept it. I believed she was going to get better. She would leave that hospital walking.

In my head, my abuela would stick around to see me finish school, go to my first open mic, meet my first boyfriend and say “mija, me encanta para ti”. I even dreamed of her carrying my children (even though at that time I envisioned myself as a mother at age 25, very, very far away 😂). I didn’t even consider the idea of her dying.

I’d had other people die before, but that couldn’t happend to Emilia. “She is the strongest person I know”, I would say. She had beaten cancer before and she would do it again.

I’ll never forget the day she died. It was a day before a Hilary Duff concert I was super excited to go to. I was entering my childhood home, now my aunts house, and all my cousins were running out to the patio when I felt everything slow down for me. I sat on a chair. I couldn’t understand why I felt so weird. Why I stopped cold mid running and giggling with them.

And then the phone rang. My aunt picked it up. It was the news I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t need to hear it, I knew I had lost the woman who loved me unconditionally. Who left her home to come raise me. My partner. Truly my best friend.

I didn’t want to see her body at the funeral. Instead I was sitting on the sidewalk playing cards with the boys. I didn’t know how to play, I still don’t. But my cousins knew full well, even at such a young age, what I was doing. And they let me ruin their game.

My parents took me to see her towards the end of the day. They said I would want to do it because it was the last time. I cried so much I was dehydrated. Seeing her in a coffin made the news true. Made it real. And I didn’t want that.

For years, I just thought of my grandma traveling around the world. Sometimes, when days were hard, I would even get mad at her for not taking me along to discover the world. I think I sometimes still do imagine her getting to know new countries and being happy. Doing the things we weren’t able to give her.

She sacrificed so much for our family. For me. It wasn’t enough. The time I got with her was not enough to love her, to give her joy. So many days I didn’t sit on her lap because I was locked in my room reading. So many times I didn’t stand with her in the kitchen trying to learn. We did almost everything together, but still I feel like there was so much I didn’t do and I wish I had.

My grandmother Emiliana.

My grandmother Emiliana.

I remind myself that I would probably feel like that even if she had stayed longer. All I know is that I miss her. She lived in a time were racial injustice was even more radical and accepted than today, yet she lived with no hate towards those who tried to oppress her. I never heard a word out of her mouth that was foul towards the people who had discriminated her.

She raised 13 kids (ten her, three adopted) as a single woman. She did the impossible. She persisted. She loved. She was pure light. Truly a force to be reckoned with. And flaws and all, she was perfect.

God blessed me with the perfect grandma. Someone who impacted my life so greatly, I would never have become the woman I am without the twelve years I spent with her. I would never have known to love this way . I wouldn’t love music or acting or entertaining in general. I wouldn’t want to help every soul that crosses my path without her.

And now, here I am, fourteen years living without her but always with her spirit in my heart. Hoping that if she can see me, she’s proud of me. I love you abuela. Gracias por todo.